The Supermarket war is not over yet -

29th January 2013


One might have thought that after the fiasco of the Cattle Market planning enquiry and the order to pay costs likely to exceed £200,000, Ryedale District Council might have learnt its lesson, and accepted that the best site for a new supermarket in Malton is the Cattle Market and not Wentworth Street Car Park. No chance!


Just one point of reminder: it wasn’t just the government inspector (Inspector Wildsmith) who found the Council at fault, but it was the Council’s own consultant who admitted in cross examination that the professional advice his firm had given was wrong and that the Car Park was the wrong site. Inspector Wildsmith said this wrong advice was “inexcusable” and that is why he made the costs order.


So what are Ryedale doing about this? What they could not achieve through the development control process, they are progressing through the local plan in a devious and underhand way.


The draft district plan shows an area described as a “northern arc”. This includes Wentworth Street Car Park. This area is to be considered suitable for new commercial development, including superstore development.


The Fitzwilliam Estate say that if the “Northern Arc” is left in the plan in these terms, there will remain a risk of a new superstore on that site in the not too distant future, and this risk will make it very difficult for them to get the kind of operator they want to redevelop the Cattle market.


In other words, they want a top range store like Waitrose or Booths which will be very much smaller than what the Council want on Wentworth Street Car Park, and will make Malton town centre more attractive to shoppers and encourage shops to improve their range and diversity; what the Council wants is a huge new superstore and, provided they can make a killing on the sale, they could not care less if this is likely to take trade away from the Town Centre and ruin it. Now what the Estate are saying is that it will be very difficult to get an operator on their site if the operator knows that there is a good chance that some time in the future, they will be faced with competition from a much bigger superstore on Wentworth Street Car Park.


At the local plans hearing in October, the Estate, the Town Council and others made strong representations that the “Northern Arc” should be taken out of the Council’s plan. It was pointed out that this was not justified by any consultants’ report. Nevertheless the inspector at this inquiry (Mr. Stephen Pratt) concluded in his interim decision that “although there is limited evidence to support” the Northern Arc concept, it could still be included in the plan. In doing so, Inspector Pratt has undermined Inspector Wildsmith’s decision.


So today’s position is that the Council have taken full advantage of Inspector Pratt’s interim conclusions. If the Cattle Market redevelopment cannot proceed, Wentworth Street Car Park could be considered to be the next “most sequentially preferable” site for a supermarket; nothing will then stop the Council giving permission, the Council will have its ill-earned cash and every prospect of revitalising Malton Town Centre will have been crushed.


 In taking this position, the Council are of course putting themselves at risk of facing a legal challenge which could bring down the entire district plan, and leave town and country planning in Ryedale in chaos for a decade, as well as landing the taxpayer with another expensive legal bill.


The draft plan is now out for its second stage consultation and has still to go through a few more hoops before it can be adopted. Is there anybody out there who can make Ryedale see sense?













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